No. 15 Michigan braces for stern test vs. Maryland

Michigan Wolverines head coach Jim Harbaugh during the game against the Northwestern Wildcats at Ryan Field on Saturday.Photo: Quinn Harris-USA TODAY Sports

For No. 15 Michigan, Saturday's game versus visiting Maryland represents one last upset hurdle to clear before the anticipated meat of its schedule finally arrives.

For the Terrapins, it's a chance to earn a signature win and make a statement that they will be a team for which to be reckoned.

It might not seem like it on paper, but there is a lot more intrigue than expected for both teams heading into Saturday's game at Michigan Stadium.

The Wolverines are coming off a closer-than-expected win at Northwestern last week, which saw them rally from a 17-point deficit to avoid what might have been a season-crushing loss.

But Michigan survived and earned a 20-17 win, and now the objective will be to not look past Maryland with its toughest tests looming after that.

"They outplayed us in the first quarter, and I felt like our team responded over the next three," Wolverines head coach Jim Harbaugh said of the win over Northwestern.

Following the contest against the Terrapins, Michigan (3-1) will host Wisconsin, play at Michigan State and host Penn State over its next three games. That stretch will largely decide if the Wolverines are a Big 10 title and playoff contender.

On his radio show on Monday, Harbaugh said defensive lineman Rashan Gary and running back Chris Evans are questionable with injuries.

Harbaugh said Maryland presents problems his team will have to overcome.

"A very highly ranked defense," Harbaugh said. "There's a lot of speed on defense. They are able to put points on the board offensively. They are a physical team and are active in the secondary. A lot of team speed in their secondary."

Maryland is off to a 3-1 start, which can be argued is a pleasant surprise with all the negative news surrounding the program at the start of the year.

Head coach D.J. Durkin is still on administrative leave as the university conducts its investigations into the death of lineman Jordan McNair and allegations of an abusive culture within the football program under Durkin's watch.

McNair, an offensive lineman, collapsed during a conditioning drill in May and later died.

Interim head coach Matt Canada has presided over a team that upset Texas to start the season, but suffered an embarrassing home loss to Temple on Sept. 15.

However, the Terrapins looked good in a 42-13 win over Minnesota on Sept. 22, and following a bye last week, they hope having two weeks to prepare for the Wolverines will aid their upset bid.

"We got off the mat," Canada said following the win over Minnesota. "We had a tough one (against Temple). Didn't play as well as we wanted to play. We came back and played extremely well. Obviously there are lot of things to clean up. There always are. Our players came back and played with great passion."

Maryland has two dangerous running backs who are both on pace to rush for 1,000 yards in Ty Johnson (300 yards, 40 carries) and Anthony McFarland (291 yards, 27 carries), but this will be by far the toughest defense the Terrapins have faced this season.

Led by Gary, linebacker Devin Bush and Big 10 co-defensive player of the week Chase Winovich, Michigan is ranked No. 1 in the country in total defense going into Saturday's game.

But other than the Temple game, Maryland has also played solid defense all season, and hopes to have success trying to coral Michigan quarterback Shea Patterson (68.5 completion percentage, 905 yards passing) and senior running back Karan Higdon (479 yards, five touchdowns on 76 carries).

This is the first Big 10 East division game for both squads. Michigan has won the last three meetings between the teams after Maryland beat Michigan in 2014..